Padraig Harrington has played more World Golf Championships than any other player. But will it be 33rd time lucky for the Dubliner at Doral?

Judging by the grin he wore as he drained a 16 footer for one of just five birdies recorded on the feared 18th on the opening day of the CA Championship for a two under 70, Harrington might well believe his time has come at last.

In recent times, Harrington has looked more likely to hole an eight footer for par than a similar length putt for birdie. But that might not be such a severe handicap in the stiff winds that made Doral a true grinders course last night.

Harrington saved par with putts of between four and eight feet no fewer than six times as he finished the day just three strokes behind leader Charl Schwartzel, whose 67 was one better than Robert Allenby, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.

Allenby was eight under after 12 holes and threatening to post a phenomenal score before he finished with four successive bogeys from the 15th.

Harrington, meanwhile, had five birdies and three bogeys on a day when just 23 players in the 68 man field could break par-72 and only 10 broke 70.

However, the sub-par men did not include Graeme McDowell or his fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy.

McDowell raced to three under after five holes but failed to make another birdie as his short game let him down and the bogey count mounted slowly but surely before he signed for a two over 74.

Playing with Phil Mickelson (71) and Retief Goosen (76), McIlroy missed too many fairways and greens and compounded his problems by putting poorly for a disappointing 76. 

The Ulsterman could hole just three significant putts all day - two eight footers and one five footer. He also three-stabbed his 16th hole, the seventh, from 22 feet. On that occasion he burned the edge with his birdie try and missed from inside three feet coming back.

This was a day for Harrington and he revelled in the conditions with his birdie at the last the equivalent of emerging into sunlight for a miner who has spent the day hammering away at the coalface.

The 467-yard 18th wreaked havoc on the field, averaging 4.647 for the day, with 37 of the 68 players carding bogey or worse.

Sigh was six under when he approached the final hole but finished with a six after a hooked drive finished in a watery grave - one of 18 balls to finish in the water in round one.

Harrington, Luke Donald, John Senden, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson were the only players to make a birdie.

Indeed, Harrington played it to perfection, daringly hugging the left side of the fairway with his drive before firing a 173-yard five iron approach to 16 feet and holing the putt for the perfect end to a grinding day.

“I made birdie and it felt like an eagle,” Harrington said. “In fairness, today wasn’t even the toughest wind. It was blowing in and off the right. You want to play that hole tough? Play it when it’s in and off the left. The pin was its toughest position today up front.”